By Robson Sharuko
Zimbabwe international striker Nyasha Mushekwi’s dream of rubbing shoulders against some of the world’s greatest footballers, including Brazilians — Hulk, Oscar and Ramires — has virtually come true after his Chinese club all but secured their place in the country’s Super League at the weekend.
Barring an incredible run of results, in the last three matches of the campaign, Mushekwi and his teammates at Dalian Yifang will celebrate promotion into the Chinese Super League in the next few weeks and a golden chance for a dance with some of the world’s finest footballers drawn from across the globe.
Dalian Yifang all but secured a place in the Chinese top-flight league at the weekend when they thrashed Shanghai Shenxin 4-2 away from home to take their points tally to 58 from 27 games in the 16-team second tier-league.
Yifang are two points clear of second-placed Beijing Renhe who have 56 points but, crucially, they are nine points clear of third-placed side Qingdao Huanghai who have 49 points from the same number of matches.
Fourth-placed side Shijiazhuang Ever Bright also have 49 points, from the same number of matches, and the two teams can only end up with 58 points, the points which Mushekwi’s side already have in their kit, should they win their remaining three matches.
The problem with Qingdao Huanghai is that even if they win all their remaining three matches, and Mushekwi’s side lose all their last three games and the two clubs finish with the same number of points (58), they cannot overtake Dalian Yifang in the final classification.
This is because the Chinese authorities use head-to-head analysis when two teams finish with the same number of points and Mushekwi’s Dalian Yifang beat their rivals 2-1 in their first meeting on April 9 this year with the Zimbabwean striker on target in that match.
The two sides then drew 1-1 on July 22, with Mushekwi once again scoring for his team, and the win and draw will give them a better head-to-head record in the unlikely event they finish with the same number of points.
Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, in fourth place, can also finish on 58 points, should they win all their remaining three matches and Mushekwi’s table toppers lose all their last three, and their head-to-head record is identical after the first game ended 2-2 on April 30, with Mushekwi scoring twice in that game.
The second game also ended 2-2 on August 30 with Mushekwi scoring one of his team’s two goals. However, Mushekwi’s team has a far better goal difference (+24) compared to (+13) for Ever Bright.
But, even then, to believe that Mushekwi’s table-toppers will lose all their remaining three matches, where a point will be enough to secure promotion, is stretching imagination too far given the opposition they face.
They face the team in bottom place, Yunnan Lijang, the team second from bottom Baoding Yingli Yitong and a team in relegation trouble, just five points above the relegation scrap, Dalian Transcendence in their last three matches. Two of those games are at home and only one is away from their backyard.
The Zimbabwean international has scored 14 goals in the 27 league matches which his side has played and leads the scoring honours again and has already created history after scoring the 100th league goal in his club’s short history.
He is one of two African players on his team’s books, and plays alongside Ivorian forward Yannick Boli, while their coach is Spanish gaffer Juan Ramon Lopez Caro who was recruited to ensure he takes the team into the Chinese Super League. Dalian Yifang even tried to sign Cameroonian legend Samuel Etoó but then settled for Boli who has also contributed a lot for his team this season.
Last Wednesday, Dalian Yifang, who are owned by the Dalian Yifang Group, celebrated 18 years of existence and their home ground, the Dalian Sports Centre, is a 61 000 capacity stadium. A dance in the Chinese Super League will see Mushekwi rubbing shoulders with the likes of former Chelsea star Oscar, who became the seventh most expensive footballer in history at the time he was sold to Shanghai SIPG for £60m.
He has been earning a staggering £350 000 a week and is at the same team as his former Chelsea teammate Ramires. Argentine forward Carlos Tevez made headlines around the world when he was signed by Shanghai Shenhua in a deal worth around £615,000 a week which makes him the highest paid football star in the world.
Brazilian Alexandre Parto, Belgian star Axel Witsel, who earns about £300,000 a week, Hulk, Jackson Martinez, and Paulinho, who has since been signed by Barcelona, have all been part of the Chinese Super League adventure.
The African stars who are part of that show include Nigerian captain John Obi Mikel, Odian Ighalo, Gervinho, 2017 African Nations Cup Player of the Tournament Christian Bassogog and his Cameroonian captain Benjamin Moukandjo.
Two years ago, Forbes said Guangzhou Evergrande Tabao were the most valuable club in the Chinese Super League at $282 million with Beijing Guoan in second place at $167 million and Shanghai SIPG in third place at $159 million. The Herald